José León Cerrillo and Ilja Karilampi

Shotgun Review

José León Cerrillo and Ilja Karilampi

By Marion Cousin December 7, 2014

Founded by Colombian curator Juana Berrío and Mexican duo Leticia Vilalta and Rodrigo Peñafiel, the new Mission district art space Kiria Koula is both a gallery and bookstore. With two distinct platforms, Kiria Koula’s focus on contemporary art and critical research charts new territory. Kiria Koula’s debut exhibition features works by Mexican artist José León Cerrillo and Swedish artist Ilja Karilampi. 

Cerrillo’s installation is composed of three square metal structures that naturally interlock with the original pillars of the gallery, and is paired with six glass panels, each printed with colored geometric shapes and symbols. On the opposite side, a black-and-white curtain patterned with symbols separates the space. The installation highlights the transparency of the glass and the minimalist nature of the metal forms, and complements the gallery’s design and use of natural light brought into the space through large windows. Cerrillo’s installation invites the audience to physically interact with the work, and moves away from traditional, front-viewing interactions. As a result, the audience can navigate freely between works in an open space to discover the multiple perspectives and reflections produced by the glass and this mode of installation.

José León Cerrillo and Ilja Karilampi, 2014; installation view, Kiria Koula, San Francisco. Courtesy of the Artists and Kiria Koula. 

Two of Karilampi’s videos, Hendrix Incident (2013) and W€ll $pent: Mykki Blanco in Malmö (2012), play in the bookstore. They each offer a different story about Jimi Hendrix and performer Mykki Blanco and their respective tours in Sweden. Two additional videos are screened discreetly on a wall in the back of the main space, one of which is The Chief Architect of Gangsta Rap (2009). A video portrait of iconic rapper Dr. Dre, the video is a strange mix of cultural styles that create a Karilampi-esque narrative. In the video, Karilampi talks about two different facets of Dre’s character: the rapper and the possible architect. For the latter, Karilampi imagines—if the rumors were true and Dre had indeed studied architecture—the types of buildings he could have designed, and how this unverified past deeply influenced his music. While viewers might initially be struck by the seemingly unconnected themes in Karilampi’s videos, an undercurrent of truth runs through each, reflecting his own interests and interpretations.

Berrío’s attempt to introduce international and established artists to the Mission district of San Francisco is risky but worthwhile. At a time when many art spaces have closed because of rising costs in the Bay Area, Kiria Koula introduces hope, and quite possibly a new San Francisco art experience. 

Kiria Koula: José León Cerrillo and Ilja Karilampi is on view at Kiria Koula, in San Francisco, through January 10, 2015.

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